On 31 December 2020, at 11:00 PM, freedom of movement between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) will end. This document sets out further detail on how our new immigration system will operate. At the heart of it will be the Points-Based Immigration System.
In February 2020, we published our Policy Statement on the UK’s Points-Based Immigration System. This set out how we would fulfil our commitment to the British public to take back control of our borders by ending free movement and introducing a single, global immigration system. The Points-Based System will cater for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and a range of other specialist work routes including routes for global leaders in their field and innovators.
This document builds on the Policy Statement by providing more detail to applicants, employers and educational institutions on the draft requirements and conditions underpinning the key immigration routes in the Points-Based System. The routes described in this document cover the main economic migration routes for those wishing to apply to work or study or set up a business in the UK. It also sets out our generous provisions for visitors. It is intended to give time to prepare ahead of some of these new routes opening later this year, in advance of ending free movement for EU citizens on 31 December1.
Unless otherwise stated, these routes will be open by January 2021. For all other routes, such as family reunion, from January 2021 EU citizens (who do not qualify under EU Settlement Scheme or other routes protected by the Withdrawal Agreement) will need to apply and qualify for entry or stay on the same basis as non-EU citizens. It is worth noting that beyond the main work and study route, most of the immigration routes will have the same requirements as they do now for non-EU citizens. EU citizens will need to get a visa for all activities other than short-term visits.
The Immigration Bill continues its passage through Parliament and will provide the legal basis for ending freedom of movement on 31 December. We will confirm the final details for the Points-Based System later this year via guidance for applicants, Immigration Rules and secondary legislation. This will also illustrate how we are simplifying these Rules. We intend to share draft Immigration Rules with stakeholders shortly to ensure clarity and understanding.
The implementation of the Points-Based System will be phased, with further details published in due course. For those wishing to come to the UK before 1 January 2021, nonEU citizens will apply to come to the UK as they do now, and EU citizens will continue to exercise their rights under the terms of the transition arrangements which allow for continuation of freedom of movement. EU citizens who arrive before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, and relevant family members, will be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme. They have until 30 June 2021 to make an application under that scheme. More than 3.7 million applications have been made so far.
The Points-Based System will work in the interests of the whole of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We will maintain the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangements between the UK, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) after the end of the transition period.
The Points-Based System will be a fair system, because we will treat people from every part of the world equally. It will also reflect the careful consideration being given to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review produced by Wendy Williams.
We are determined to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation. That is why we established the Windrush Compensation Scheme, and recently launched the Windrush Cross-Government Working Group, to continue to support those affected.
The Home Secretary has accepted all the findings of the Wendy Williams Windrush Lessons Learned Review. We will be updating Parliament on how we will implement the recommendations.
Principles of the Points-Based System
1. Underpinning the new system will be simplified rules and guidance. Over the years, the Immigration Rules, which set out the requirements a migrant must meet to come to or stay in the UK, have become long, complex and repetitive. The Law Commission’s recent review of the Rules identified principles under which they can be redrafted to make them simpler and more accessible and fit for the future.
2. The Points-Based System will be streamlined and simplified, making the best use of technology and implementing the recommendations of the Law Commission.
3. As we replace freedom of movement with the Points-Based System, we remain committed to protecting individuals from modern slavery and exploitation by criminal traffickers and unscrupulous employers.
Common Travel Area (CTA)
4. The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which is currently before Parliament, clarifies the immigration status of Irish citizens and confirms there will be no change to their rights to freely enter, live and work in the UK without requiring permission. There will continue to be no routine immigration controls on journeys from within the CTA to the UK, with no immigration controls whatsoever on the Northern Ireland – Ireland land border. The Government will continue to work closely with CTA partners to facilitate legitimate travel within the CTA while tackling abuse of these arrangements.
5. EU and non-EU citizens wishing to come to and live in the UK from 1 January 2021 will need to demonstrate their right to be in the UK and the entitlements they have. All applicants will receive written confirmation of their immigration status. EU citizens will additionally be provided with secure access to their immigration status information via an online service which they will be able to use to confirm their rights and to access services when necessary, instead of a physical status document.
6. EU and non-EU citizens who are entitled to work will be able to use an online service to demonstrate their right to work in the UK. This online service, which has been in operation since January 2019, makes right to work checks simpler for employers, by making individual’s right to work information available in real time and removing the need for physical document checks. This also allows the option for checks to be conducted remotely, for example via video call. A similar online right to rent service, which most individuals will be able to use, is planned for later this year, making right to rent checks easier for landlords.
7. All EU citizens coming to the UK for more than six months will be able to prove other rights and entitlements via online services. Increasingly, when accessing public services such as benefits or healthcare, the Home Office will be able to confirm an individual’s status to the service provider automatically through system to system checks, at the point at which the person seeks to access the public service.
8. From January 2021, most EU citizens will not need to attend a Visa Application Centre (VAC) to enrol their biometrics and will instead provide facial images using a smartphone self-enrolment application form. At this stage we will not be requiring EU citizens to enrol their biometrics to visit the UK, but self-enrolment is part of our longerterm vision.
9. As with the EU Settlement Scheme, where we have started to deliver a fully online application process, non-EU citizens, and some EU citizens applying on specific routes or who are unable to use the self-enrolment option, will need to attend the global network of VACs, or if they are applying in the UK the in-country equivalent, to provide facial images and (in the case of non-EU citizens) fingerprint biometrics, where required.
10. Our long-term aim is that all visitors and migrants to the UK will provide their biometric facial images and fingerprints under a single global immigration system. To maximise customer convenience and security, we will increasingly look to provide capabilities for biometric self-enrolment, integrated within digital application processes for immigration products. More information on self-enrolment and attending the VAC network or incountry equivalent is available on GOV.UK.
11. Application fees will continue to apply under the new system as they do now, and a list of current fees can be found on GOV.UK. They will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens. Annex A provides an indicative view of fees once the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations are updated to reflect the routes outlined in this document.
12. The Immigration Skills Charge will be levied on UK employers of skilled workers on the same basis as now, except we intend to remove the current exemption for employers of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when we end free movement between the UK and the EU.
13. The Immigration Health Surcharge will continue to be paid by most overseas migrants coming to the UK for more than six months and the Government remains committed to increasing the amount payable to ensure cost recovery for use of NHS services. We will introduce a new discounted rate for those under the age of 18. We are working to exempt frontline workers in the NHS and social care sector and wider health workers from the requirement to pay the Health Surcharge. Further details will be published shortly.
Sponsorship of skilled workers and students
14. We recognise that employer sponsorship is a key determinant of labour market needs. For workers and students, sponsorship maintains a relationship between a recognised UK employer or educational institution and a migrant to ensure that those who come on the work and student routes are genuinely intending to work or study. Overall, the sponsorship system will form an integral part of the Points-Based System by supporting compliance with our Immigration Rules.
15. A sponsorship requirement will apply to the Skilled Worker route, to the Health and Care Visa and to the student route, as well as to some specialised worker routes. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens who come on these routes. Although specific requirements vary by route, for most work routes, sponsors must undergo checks to demonstrate they are a genuine business, are solvent, and that the roles they wish to recruit into are credible and meet the salary and skills requirements (if applicable). Sponsors must also pay a licence fee (and Immigration Skills Charge, where required) and ensure they act and behave in a way which is conducive to the wider public good. Senior personnel and key users of the service undergo criminality and other security checks. Educational institutions are also required to hold educational oversight from an appropriate body, meet an annual Basic Compliance Assessment and undergo additional scrutiny where they wish to teach children.
16. As part of the Points-Based System, we are committed to delivering radical changes to the sponsorship process, streamlining and simplifying it for users, and substantially reducing the time it takes to bring in a migrant. As a result of suspension of the cap and removal of the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), the time savings for employers will be initially reduced by up to eight weeks compared to the current process. We intend to further reduce this through additional enhancements to the system beyond January 2021.
Suspending the cap
17. As a first step towards reducing the burdens on employers and streamlining the sponsorship system, we will suspend the current cap on Tier 2 (General) visas (the current route for skilled workers), which will result in there being no limit on the numbers of skilled workers who can come to the UK. This change alone will reduce the end-to-end process for sponsoring skilled workers by up to four weeks, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to simplifying the immigration system for employers.
Introducing Sponsor Licences for the new Skilled Worker route
18. To provide employers and prospective future sponsors with certainty we will continue to apply existing sponsorship controls to maintain high standards over whom we license to bring migrant workers to the UK. We aim to ensure that applications can be made under the new route before the end of the transition period.
19. Existing Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) sponsors will automatically be granted a new Skilled Worker licence or Intra-Company Transfer licence, with an expiry date consistent with their current licence, and receive an appropriate allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).
Abolishing the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)
20. Under the new Skilled Worker route there will be no requirement for employers to undertake a RLMT. This reform will remove at least four weeks from the end-to-end process for sponsoring skilled workers. However, sponsors must still be seeking to fill a genuine vacancy which meets the skill and salary thresholds of the new route. Roles cannot be created solely to facilitate immigration of a specific migrant to the UK.
Immigration Skills Charge
21. Employers who sponsor non-EU migrant workers under Tier 2 (General) and (IntraCompany Transfer) will be required, as now, to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), unless a specific exemption applies. Employers must pay £1,000 per skilled worker for the first 12 months, with an additional £500 charge for each subsequent six-month period. Under the Points-Based System we will apply the ISC to sponsoring employers in respect of both EU and non-EU migrant workers. Discounted rates of £364 per sponsored worker per year will apply as they do now to charities and Small and Medium Enterprises.
English language requirements
22. The requirement for migrants to speak English language supports integration, ensuring migrants can live and be part of the wider community in the UK. It also means migrants must demonstrate they have the ability required for the route and the role they are coming to the UK for. The level of English language ability required is set as appropriate for each relevant route based on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. For example, students at degree level must demonstrate their ability at level B2 (A-Level or equivalent) and skilled workers B1 (AS-Level or equivalent).
23. The ways an applicant can show they meet the English language requirement are:
- being a national of a majority English speaking country;
- having an academic degree taught in English;
- passing a secure English language test;
- having shown they meet the required level in a previous successful immigration application.
24. In some routes there are additional ways of meeting the English language requirement. We will not make any changes to these route-specific provisions:
- skilled workers who are sponsored as a doctor, dentist, nurse or midwife can rely on the assessment of their professional body as proof of their English language ability.
- students who are studying a course at degree level or above at a UK Higher Education provider with a track record of compliance, can meet the English requirement if their sponsor assesses their ability.
- students who are applying to complete a short-term study abroad programme in the UK, as part of a course equivalent to a UK degree being studied at a Higher Education Institution in the USA do not need to prove English language ability.
25. We will also extend the list of majority English speaking countries to include Ireland (so applicants who are neither British nor Irish citizens and who have studied at Irish universities can rely on their qualifications to show they have met the English language requirement) and Malta.
26. Skilled workers and postgraduate students will continue to have the right to bring dependants. Dependants are spouses, partners2 and children (below the age of 18 at point of entry)3, and their application is linked to that of the main applicant. In general dependants have near full access to the UK labour market and can work at any skill level. School age children accompanying a migrant are entitled to a state education. Dependants must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
27. Under the Points-Based System, we will allow most migrants to apply to switch from one immigration route to another without having to leave the UK. This will support employers in retaining the talented staff that they have invested in.
28. However, there will be no relaxation of the qualifying criteria for the route being switched into. A migrant will still have to meet the requirements for that route. They will also have to pay the same fees, relevant charges, and complete the same application.
29. There will be no right to switch in the UK for work or study for those on short-term routes such as visitors and seasonal workers.
Criminality and deportation thresholds
30. A robust and consistent approach to applying the UK criminality thresholds for the refusal of entry, permission to remain in the UK, deportation and exclusion, to EU and non-EU citizens, will be taken as part of the Points-Based System.
31. Those seeking entry to the UK can be refused where they have:
- a conviction with a custodial sentence length of at least 12 months;
- committed an offence which caused serious harm;
- are a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law;
- their character, conduct or associations means their presence is not conducive to the public good.
32. Those already in the UK who are sentenced to 12 months or more in prison must be considered for deportation. Where the 12-month criminality deportation threshold is not met, a foreign criminal will still be considered for deportation where it is conducive to the public good, including where they have serious or persistent criminality.
33. For EU citizens who are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement or the UK’s domestic implementation of the withdrawal agreements, the tougher UK criminality thresholds will apply to conduct committed after the end of the transition period. The EU public policy, public security or public health test will continue to apply to their conduct committed before the end of the transition period.
34. We will ensure our enforcement system is fair, protects the public, upholds our immigration policies, and acts as a deterrent to those who might seek to frustrate those policies. Encouraging and supporting compliance will be at the heart of the Points-Based System. Compliance with UK immigration laws and rules is an essential part of an immigration system which operates fairly, robustly and with integrity.
35. We will continue to set out clearly to those wishing to the come to the UK, and those seeking to remain in the UK, what is expected of them and the consequences of not complying with immigration laws and rules. Migrants are expected to observe the conditions of their permitted stay and not to remain beyond the period of their lawful status. Those who breach our immigration laws and rules place themselves at risk of exploitation by unscrupulous bodies such as organised crime groups and rogue employers and landlords.
Glossary: definitions of conditions, requirements and restrictions
Details of each immigration route throughout this document is accompanied by a table to provide an overview of its requirements, conditions and restrictions. If it says ‘yes’ next to a requirement, condition or restriction it means that it does apply. If it says ‘no’ it means it does not. The following explains what the key terms in the tables mean in the context of the immigration routes:
There are a number of immigration routes with an English language requirement for applicants. This may be to support integration and/ or to demonstrate they have the English language ability needed for that particular route. The level of English language ability required is set as appropriate for each relevant route based on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. See paragraphs 22-25 for more information.
Immigration Skills Charge
This is a charge paid by a UK employer for each skilled migrant worker they employ through the Skilled Worker and Intra-Company Transfer routes. See the information in paragraph 21.
Immigration Health Surcharge
This is a charge paid by the applicant up front for the duration of their stay. It gives them free access to NHS services on broadly the same basis as British citizens. See the information in paragraph 13.
The majority of migrants coming to the UK from overseas must be able to demonstrate they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their families while in the UK. This is known as the maintenance requirement. Further information on maintenance will be published alongside the Rules and guidance in the Autumn.
If biometrics are required, these are obtained as part of the application process set out in paragraphs 8-10.
If a route is capped, it means there is a limit on the number of migrants who can come to the UK on that route each year. If it is uncapped there is no limit.
Switching – routes
Switching in this context refers to a migrant’s ability to stay in the UK on a different immigration route without needing to leave the UK and apply from overseas. Even if the answer is ‘yes’, there will be some routes a migrant cannot switch from – for example, a visitor or short-term visa. For more information see paragraphs 27-29.
This is also known as indefinite leave to enter or remain and means a successful applicant can stay in the UK without any immigration conditions or time restrictions. In the tables for specific routes, if there is a ‘yes’ next to settlement then years that a migrant spends in the UK on the route can count towards the qualifying period for settlement. If there is a ‘no’ this means that any years spent in the UK on that route do not count towards the qualifying period.
Dependants are the spouses, partners and children (under the age of 18) of migrants, and in some cases other family members can also be dependants. If the tables say ‘yes’ next to dependants, it means applicants’ dependants are eligible to accompany or join them in the UK on the route. More information can be found in paragraph 26.
Access to public funds
In most cases migrants are not eligible to access public funds, such as benefits, until they obtain settlement, though there are some exceptions. Detail of what does and doesn’t constitute public funds can be found on GOV.UK.
Supplementary work is when a migrant takes on employment in addition to their primary work hours or study (upon which their permission to be in the UK is based). There are some routes that do not allow supplementary work. For those routes that do, restrictions will apply depending on the route.